Sunday, January 26, 2014

Wear Sunsceen

Back in 1997 there was a talk-song that was popular for maybe a week or two called "Wear Sunscreen." It was the kind of speech you hear at graduations -- lots of stuff about living well, being true to yourself and not sweating the small stuff. Just found out this was authored by Baz Luhrmann. Figures. He is my favorite movie director and all around awesome human being.

But, truly, wear sunscreen or you, too, may end up with a highly unattractive gouge out of your face like mine.

Granted, this isn't the biggest deal in the world. There are folks struggling with issues much, much more serious. But still, it's a reminder to wear your damn sunscreen all the time. 

The good news is this was a tiny little blob that was quickly and completely removed by my enthusiastic dermatologist. The bad news is that it kept me out of the pool for 5 days. Turns out, that may have been good news.

Since I couldn't swim, I jogged, I rowed, I did weights and stretches and all my shoulder PT exercises. I enjoyed time with good friends and finished a book. And spent some time in cold baths.

And when I got back into the water, I felt surprisingly good! I cranked out a couple of very challenging workouts and didn't puke or pass out before the finish. 

So, all in all, this was a good week. I have another week of prep before I head to Clearwater Beach, Florida, for cold ocean swim training and, if things go well, an attempt at my 6-hour qualifying swim. Right now, water temps in Clearwater are hovering around 55 degrees, so I'm thinking warm thoughts. I really want the full 6-0 for my qualifying attempt. There will be plenty of time for more cold water swimming before the Channel and it would feel so nice to have this checked off the list. One less monkey getting a free ride on my tired shoulders.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

I'll Drink to That

My life is simple: swim, work, gym, eat, sleep. The Creature from the Black Lagoon has a lot more excitement. I don't have time to chase fair maidens doing backstroke or go after mad scientists. You need to pick your priorities.

I've been researching nutrition the past week or so. There is a plethora of pet theories on the best way to keep chuggin' through ultra endurance events. Super starch, brand name UCAN, is a current super star of endurance nutrition. Some people swear by it and others think it's just way overpriced cornstarch.

I've used Perpetuem in my long swim events, but became horribly nauseated after the Pensacola 25K and especially after the Red River Swim. The body can only process about 200-300 calories per hour during exercise and I was consuming about 350 per hour in carb drinks and gu gels. I'm a medium to slower speed swimmer, so I don't think I'm processing as many calories as faster or bigger swimmers. All that sweet gunk builds up in my gut, making me want to puke. And what's worse is I'm not an easy puker. I feel absolutely awful, but can't toss the cookies. So to speak.

I was excited to learn about another carb drink called Genr8, which has low osmolality, meaning it's supposed to pass through the stomach faster than traditional carb drinks like Perpetuem and CarboPro. Sounds like my kind of product. I used it on my 8-hour pool swim a few weeks ago and didn't have any stomach upset, bloating or that other "bubbly" side effect of Perpetuem and CarboPro. But, a pool swim is entirely different from an ocean swim, which involves a lot more effort. I'm taking it with me to Florida for training and hope it will prove to be an effective source of calories without GI distress.

I've also quit drinking alcohol. Sure a beer here or there probably wouldn't hurt, but 1. why would anyone want "a" beer and 2. it helps me feel like I'm in training-mode to stick with ginger beer. When I step into the water to swim to France, I want to know I've done everything I could to be well prepared. The folks at Hammer nutrition have a good article about the effects of drinking on athletic performance and recovery: How alcohol diminishes performance gains from training.

I've also been thinking, stewing and ruminating about cold water acclimation. I've done a few cold baths, I've walked around in short sleeves, but I know I need to do more. Less talking. More doing.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

I'm lookin' at YOU Cap Gris Nez

It's finally here! It's finally here! My year to swim the English Channel! Some of you dear readers may be running across this soggy little blog for the first time, having noticed my recent declaration on Facebook, showing my CSA registration info and swim cap.

Well, I'll let you in on a secret. I've been plotting this since January 2013. Last February, I wired the booking fee to my boat pilot, Stuart Gleeson, owner of an impressive 32' fishing vessel, the Sea Leopard, and one of the best pilots for the CSA. I snagged the first slot on the last neap tide in July 2014, the 19-27th. I made accommodation reservations in Dover for the entire month of July. I've connected with other marathon swimmers and English Channel aspirants from around the world on various swimming forums and groups. I've rolled out of bed and into a cold pool more mornings than not, knowing that every single swim helps me prepare for this incredible challenge.

And now finally, after a year of training (1,180,000 yards or 670.2 miles), thinking (OK, obsessing) and planning for it, I'm closing in. It's like being in the middle of the French shipping lane on my way to Cap Gris Nez. There is still a lot of prep to do. I need to ramp up my volume (an 8 hour pool swim last Sunday was involved), take care of my shoulders and eat real food. And no fun beverages until I've crossed the Channel. Are these sacrifices? Not so much. I'm am SO FREAKING STOKED to do this, I am thrilled with every opportunity to work toward my goal. Remind me of that when I'm blue and shivering and cussing up a thunderstorm after swimming in cold water or taking an ice bath.

Thanks for sharing this adventure with me. Journeys are a lot more fun with friends.